IT’S often said you should never look a gift horse in the mouth. And it seems city punters are strongly adhering to this advice by backing shock Grand National winner and Edinburgh-linked horse Auroras Encore to win today’s Scottish National in their droves.
A win would make Auroras Encore the first horse since the legendary Red Rum in 1974 to do the double of winning both the Grand National and the Scottish equivalent.
Bookmakers in the Capital have taken a slew of bets from punters desperate not to miss out on another hometown fairytale involving the 14-1 shot part-owned by city man Jim Beaumont, 79, from Dean Village.
One city turf accountant said: “People are frothing at the mouth in anticipation of Auroras Encore doing it. It would be quite a feat and put her up there with Red Rum. It’s a magical, salivating prospect.”
However, the 11-year-old’s odds have been greatly slashed following his 66-1 Aintree romp two weeks ago. The handicapper has also been less than kind and he will have to carry top weight of 11st 12lbs as he aims for success .
Despite the hurdles, bookies – particularly in Dean Village – have been rushed off their feet.
Our source said it seemed like “almost every resident has had a wager”.
While Mr Beaumont is also quietly hopeful of a repeat performance at Ayr, he acknowledges that to do so with an extra 15lbs is a “big ask”.
He said: “It will be tough, it’s a big weight to carry, but obviously he’s in great form.
“At Aintree we never really thought he was in the race, as he hadn’t galloped since Christmas. But he flew home, so on the day who knows?”
Mr Beaumont also revealed that his horse’s newfound celebrity status is even rubbing off on him.
He said: “He’s been completely unaffected by all the fuss following his win at Aintree, but I’ve been getting stopped in the street by well wishers and punters.
“My wife, Wendy, runs a gift shop, Halibut and Herring, in Bruntsfield and it seems half the city have been popping in there to congratulate us.
“It was fantastic to win the Grand National, but to scoop the Scottish National and be up there with Red Rum would be fantastic.
“It’s a tough ask but he’s definitely got a chance.”
Bookies have already taken hundreds of bets on the Sue Smith-trained horse this week, but they are now battening down the hatches as they expect the support to flood in before tomorrow’s race.
A William Hill spokesman said: “Our Edinburgh shops have taken a lot of bets on Auroras Encore in recent days. We usually do 99 per cent of our business on the big races, like the Nationals, on the day, but this week our shops in the Capital have reported hundreds of bets on the horse.
“He is being well backed, even though he’s gone up a stone in weight. I guess city punters don’t want to miss out again after he romped home at 66-1 the last time out.”
If Auroras Encore and jockey Ryan Mania are first past the post this afternoon they will emulate the legendary Red Rum and Brian Fletcher in 1974 by completing the English and Scottish National double in the same year.
Today’s field of 20 horses will compete over 27 fences at Ayr Racecourse. The four-mile gallop gets under way at 3.50pm.
Red Rum vs Auroras Encore
Trainer: Ginger McCain
Grand National: 1973, 1974, 1977
Scottish National: 1974
Honours: Life-size statue
erected at Aintree and train
named after him by Merseyrail
Secret to success: Ginger McCain trained him on the seashore instead of the track
Likes: Soft ground
Dislikes: Losing Grand Nationals
Fact: Buried at Aintree winning post; switched on Blackpool illuminations in 1977
Trainer: Sue Smith
Grand National: 2013
Scottish National: Let’s see!
Honours: Thrown a party at the nearest pub to his stable, Dick Hudsons pub, in Bingley, West Yorkshire
Secret to success: Lightly raced and going in his favour
Likes: Good ground
Fact: Trainer Sue Smith is married to show-jumper Harvey Smith